Two days away from the launch of the Vans Warped Tour, All-American Rejects frontman Tyson Ritter is gearing up for this group’s first headlining slot on the annual traveling punk rock festival. A two-time veteran of the tour, Ritter tells Rolling Stone he’s looking forward to checking out the next generation of bands. He also opens up about the group’s summer plans, their next album and his dream of working with ELO:
How was your very first Warped Tour?
It was surreal, man. They call it summer camp, but man I feel like it was going to rock & roll camp. You saw everything you wanted to do and everything you didn’t want to do on that tour. The timing for our band was pretty crazy because our first record, we had this song called “Swing Swing,” and it just started getting traction, I guess right when Warped started.
So you must have learned a lot from that. What would you say you took from it?
It’s funny; I got my entire skill set on that tour. The singer from Less Than Jake taught me how to warm up my vocals properly. The singer for Bowling for Soup, he cornered me, saying, “You gotta keep your shit straight.” He’s like, “I know everything’s great right now, but you gotta make sure people working for you are good people.” You know he went a little more into detail. I mean, I didn’t know shit about anything. What I really took from it was just sort of the ABCs about touring.
It sounds like the Warped Tour bands are a real community.
I think it’s different now. That was almost 10 years ago. We did it in ’05 after we did it in 2003. The Dropkick Murphys were still there, but it seems like as the years have passed, some of those core bands that really were the staples of what Warped Tour was about and all that, it seems like those bands are sort of gone. It’s this new generation. I call it the Reverse Wig Generation of music. Most of the guys in the bands look like they have reverse wigs. You know what I mean? I just think it’s great that people look like they have their hair on backwards.
Does Warped Tour still hold as much meaning to you as it did?
I don’t know, I guess we always had this kinship with the true spirit of Warped Tour, and I’m hoping when we play it that spirit is still there. We’ll see when I get out there.
So what do you think of the lineup this year?
You know, it’s crazy. I like to say it’s amazing, because I don’t know any of the bands pretty much. Everclear is gonna do some dates, that’s pretty great. I fucking love that band. You know I’m really excited just to see what the whole new generation is gonna rock out. I’m stoked to see that come to the new Warped Tour era. I’m going in there pretty much blind and deaf to the music. I’ll turn on my ears a couple days.
Do you get inspiration from any of the other bands out there?
It’s a pissing contest for me. I wanna go out there and I wanna win harder than anyone else.
That’s a good motive.
We’ve been a touring band for so damn long, man. For 10 years we’ve been on the road. Every time we do an album cycle, it’s usually a year and a half. We play almost 300 shows every time. I really get satisfaction out of showing these kids how to fucking do it. It’s nice to be like, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, I’m the old man but watch what this old man can still do,” and fuck, I’m only 26, but Jesus, it’s so funny half these kids now in these bands are all tweenagers and I’m just like, “My knees hurt.”
Would you say that after a certain point the tour gets grueling?
Oh man, we eat our gruel. I think what’s great about touring is the fact that you unplug from reality so far. I mean. 10 years of nonstop touring, I’m a weird man in the real world. Like it’s totally a drug I can’t live without now, and I’ve been off the road for like, four months now and it’s maddening, man. It’s grueling, but you sort of end up having to live for it, it’s sort of a catch-22 in that matter, because I don’t know what I’d do without it now. It becomes your identity, you know?
Have you been working on new music?
Yeah we’ve been working on a whole now sort of vibe for this band. It’s been sort of surreal. The sound is different. There’s definitely these moments where we stray down a little bit and it’s vibing a little more, instead of just straight floor-to-floor rock & roll, and it feels good, feels like something organic that we’ve been trying to step into for years now. I’m really excited to see this whole project come to finish.
So who’s producing it?
I don’t know, man. I’ve really been getting into ELO. We haven’t even started talking to anybody yet, but somebody threw in Jeff Lynne the other day and that just sounds great. I feel like they were like, the meld of Queen and the Beatles. I feel like they just have some really good jams. I hear Jeff Lynne produces, and honestly if our jams are good enough to where he’d be like, hey let’s do a couple of jams, I would be ecstatic, but I really think it’s so infantile right now I can’t even tell you where we’re headed.
So, if you had to estimate when it would be released, what would you say?
I think next March. We’re not going to just put out a record this time, I have this sort of grand idea that I’ve been talking to my label about. I can’t really expose any details about it because it’s so infant, but we’re not going to do this record the way that normal people are. We’re not going to shoot a video, release a single, and then do it again. We’re going to do something different.